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2007 Legislative Priorities

 Useful Information

 Washington State Legislature Web site

Legislative Hotline:  1-800-562-6000

 2007 Legislative News
 April 17, 2007: Governor signs important McKenna-request bills protecting private property, seniors and consumers

April 16, 2007:  Media Advisory: Governor to take action on three AG request bills Tuesday

April 6, 2007: Attorney General McKenna Thanks Legislature for Preventing Identity Theft

April 4, 2007:  McKenna’s Requested Trust Mill and DV Bills Pass Unanimously

March 16, 2007: All McKenna’s priorities alive after major legislative hurdle

March 1, 2007:  McKenna’s ID theft, open government, public safety and consumer protection legislation moves past first cut-off

Feb. 14, 2007:   McKenna, legislators introduce criminal gang legislation

Feb. 8, 2007: McKenna announces new bill to protect domestic violence victims

Feb. 6, 2007: Attorney General McKenna, Advocates Band Together to Support Legislation to Prevent Identity Theft 

Dec. 20, 2006: McKenna unveils 2007 Open Government Priorities

Attorney General Rob McKenna, the assistant attorneys general and staff at the Office of the Attorney General work year round upholding and defending Washington law. In doing so, they have the unique opportunity to learn areas in need of improvement that closely mirror the goals and priorities of the office.

The 2007 legislative agenda included:

Community Safety

Consumer Protection

Government Accountability

Community Safety: Fighting Gangs

Families in communities where gang membership is on the rise find themselves living with the daily threat of intimidation and harassment. Ordinary citizens are increasingly vulnerable to gang-related crimes such as drug dealing, property crimes, auto theft, assault, rape and murder.  Even those not directly affected by gang-related crime share in indirect costs such as lower property values, higher insurance premiums and the endangerment of youth. 

The Attorney General requested Anti-gang legislation (SB 5987-Sponsored by: Sens. Jim Clements (R-Yakima), Carrell (R-Lakewood), Marr (D-Spokane), Holmquist (R-Moses Lake), Schoesler (R-Ritzville) and Rasmussen (D-Eatonville)  to increase penalties for gang-related activity and to create a task force to further explore ways to combat gangs in Washington.

The bill as approved by the Legislature directs the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) to establish a workgroup, including a representative from the Attorney General’s Office, to evaluate the problem of gang-related crime in Washington. 

This bill passed the Legislature and was signed by the Governor.

Community Safety: Tougher DV Laws

Prior to this session, the act of strangulation was generally charged under assault statutes, carrying the punishment of a gross misdemeanor. 

  • Between January 1997 and June 2006, 35 people in the state died by strangulation, making it the third leading cause of domestic violence fatalities, according to an interview in the Seattle PI by Grace Huang, public policy coordinator for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
  • Research by the National Institute for Justice found that domestic violence victims whose partner attempted to strangle them were 10 times more likely to be murdered than other assault victims.

The Attorney General requested legislation increasing DV penalties for assault by strangulation (SB 5953Sponsored by Senators Tracey Eide (D-Federal Way), Val Stevens (R-Arlington), Jerome Delvin (R-Richland), Debbie Regala (D-Tacoma), Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch), Don Benton (D-Vancouver), Chris Marr (D-Spokane), Paull Shin (D-Edmonds), Marilyn Rasmussen (D-Eatonville) and Janéa Holmquist (R-Moses Lake)) that lists assault by strangulation as one way that a person commits assault in the second degree--a class B and Level IV felony punishable by three to nine months for a first offense.

This bill passed the Legislature and was signed by the Governor.

Consumer Protection: Putting the Freeze on ID Theft

Washington is one of at least 25 states with a credit freeze law.  Unfortunately, prior to the 2007 session, this law did nothing to protect those who feared they may become victims of identity theft because they lost their wallet or purse– or even if they’d been burglarized.  Prior to this session, Washington law allowed only victims of identity theft or those notified their information was compromised in a data breach to freeze their credit—and then they needed a police report as proof.  This was a major problem during the Veterans’ Affairs data breach which affected as many as 1.1 million military members on active duty, 430,000 members of the National Guard, and 645,000 members of the Reserves. A straight credit freeze would have given our military peace of mind during this breach.

Attorney General McKenna supported credit freeze legislation (SB 5826-Sponsored by Sens. Jean Berkey (D-Everett), Don Benton (R-Vancouver), Pam Roach (R-Auburn), Joseph Zarelli (R-Ridgefield), Claudia Kauffman (D- Kent), Chris Marr (D-Spokane), Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor), Mike Carrell (R-Lakewood), Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens), Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville), Rosa Franklin (D-Tacoma), Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano Island) and Paull Shin (D-Edmonds ) that allows all citizens to now request a credit freeze effective Fall 2008. 

Credit reporting agencies may charge a fee of no more than $10 to a consumer for each freeze, removal of the freeze, or temporary lift of the freeze for a period of time. Victims of identity theft or people 65 years of age or older are free. A CRA must allow a consumer to lift a freeze within 15 minutes of receiving the request through the electronic contact method chosen by the CRA if the request:

• is received during normal business hours; and
• includes the consumer's proper identification, fee, and correct PIN or password.

This bill passed the Legislature and was signed by the Governor.

Consumer Protection: Shutting down “Trust Mills”

“Trust mills” are used by salespeople who prey on seniors and convince them through scare tactics and deception that they need a living trust. While these salespeople are convincing a senior to purchase a trust—generally for $1,500-2,000—they are also gathering detailed information about the senior’s assets, claiming they need it to prepare the trust. Instead most of these trusts are cookie-cutter documents prepared in bulk on a home computer. Once the trust is signed and delivered, the salesperson uses the relationship to sell other financial products, like reverse mortgages and annuities that may be unnecessary or even contrary to the senior’s interests.

 Neil Adkins, an early perpetrator of the scheme, sought out older widowed women and billed himself as a financial planning expert.

He held free seminars where he urged attendees to sign up for “free in-home consultations.”

Then he used his relationship to systematically bilk his clients of their life savings.

The Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division obtained a civil judgment of more than $1 million against Adkins, the Office of the Insurance Commissioner revoked his insurance license and he was finally convicted on securities fraud but he’s now bankrupt and his clients will never fully recover from the financial harm he caused.

Typically, the price paid for a living trust through a trust mill is similar to the cost to buy one through a licensed attorney, however, the attorney has an enforceable professional obligation to provide accurate and appropriate estate planning advice. 

The Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division has been bringing cases against living trust mills for more than a decade. The office generally has one or two of these cases on the docket at any given time, but for every case the office brings, our attorneys learn of several new operations they are unable to address due to limited resources and the complexity of the cases:
• The vulnerable senior victims generally have difficulty providing accurate testimony;
• Sometimes the harm caused by the trust mill isn’t evident to the purchaser and may not come to light until after the senior has passed away and descendents learn the trust was ineffective or inappropriate;
• The defendant will claim they just “provided information” and will deny engaging in the practice of law;
• The time it takes to investigate and prosecute these cases allows for dissipation of the assets available to provide restitution to the victim.


Attorney General McKenna requested legislation to protect seniors from trust mill scams (HB 1114-Representatives Jay Rodne (R-Issaquah), Pat Lantz (D-Gig Harbor), Jim Moeller (D-Vancouver) and Brian Sullivan (D-Mukilteo ) by prohibiting anyone other than attorneys or those employed by attorneys from marketing legal estate distribution documents like living trusts, wills, etc.

Attorneys who sell inappropriate living trusts will be accountable through bar sanctions.  Trust mill activity becomes a per se violation of the Consumer Protection Act so the outcome of litigation against trust mill activity is substantially certain with greater clarity which will result in broad deterrence. Financial institutions are exempt.

This bill passed the Legislature and was signed by the Governor.

Consumer Protection: Antitrust improvements

The Attorney General has relied on common law authority to recover millions of dollars on behalf of indirect purchasers who have absorbed unlawfully elevated prices arising from antitrust law violations, but that authority was recently challenged-- meaning  if competing generic drug companies agreed to fix prices for a given drug above the competitive level, the unlawfully elevated prices charged could be absorbed indirectly by “downstream” purchasers, such as drug resellers, pharmacies and the consumers of drugs. 

In the last six years, the Attorney General recovered almost $ 48 million in monetary relief for those who had been indirectly harmed by antitrust violations, including:
• $6.2 million (with an additional $1.37 million for state agencies) in the Vitamins multistate litigation, which concerned allegations of vitamin and vitamin product price-fixing, markets allocations and competitor agreements not to compete;
• $1 million (with an additional $520,000 for state agencies) in the Mylan multistate litigation, which concerned allegations of anti-competitive drug pricing policies; and
• $403,000 (with an additional $106,000 for state agencies) in the Cardizem multistate litigation, which concerned allegations of conspiracy between competing drug manufacturers to keep a lower-priced, generic drug off the market.

Washington’s lack of statutory protection for indirect purchasers placed us in the minority of states and at a disadvantage.  A full 26 states and the District of Columbia had explicit statutory provisions that protected indirect purchasers and at least 14 other states had case law precedents that unequivocally provided such protection. 

Attorney General McKenna and the Antitrust Division requested a bill protecting indirect purchasers in antitrust cases (SB 5228Sponsored by Senators Adam Kline (D-Seattle), Bob McCaslin (R-Spokane) and Brian Weinstein (D-Mercer Island ) to protect Washington’s businesses, state agencies and individual consumers by amending the antitrust statutes to codify the Attorney General’s common law authority to continue to pursue monetary claims on behalf of indirect purchasers who have been injured by antitrust law violators.

This bill passed the Legislature and was signed by the Governor.

Government Accountability: Shining a light on public records exemptions

When the voters approved the Public Disclosure Act by initiative in 1972, it included only 10 exemptions from disclosure.  Now, according to a "Sunshine Week" story by the Associated Press, there are at least 300 exemptions such as a 1996 exemption for ginseng records, tucked into a bill with the innocuous title, "An act relating to the department of agriculture grants of rule-making authority."

Attorney General McKenna requested legislation creating a Blue-Ribbon "Sunshine" Committee (SB 5435--Sponsored Senators Claudia Kauffman (D-Kent), Cheryl Pflug (R-Maple Valley), Dan Swecker (R-Chehalis) and Karen Keiser (D-Kent) to annually review all exemptions, including newly-passed ones and recommend repeal or amendment of exemptions to the Public Records Act or other statutes. 

This bill passed the Legislature and was signed by the Governor.

Government Accountability: Providing notice in eminent domain

Private property is a fundamental constitutional right, especially when the government attempts to take a person’s home.  The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Kelo v. City of New London highlighted the problems with the aggressive acquisition of homes by eminent domain.  Here in our state, many people were surprised when the state Supreme Court decided in Miller v. Sound Transit that a government agency was not required to provide actual notice to a property owner of its pending decision to condemn his or her land, but rather could simply post the meeting agenda on a Web site. While some governments and utilities voluntarily provide varying degrees of notice, there was no requirement to notify the property owner. 

Attorney General McKenna and Governor Chris Gregoire jointly requested eminent domain notice legislation (HB1458) which requires a state agency, local government or utility considering the acquisition of specific properties by eminent domain to send a certified letter (costing $4.64) to the property owner of record on the county tax rolls notifying him or her of the open public meeting to decide the issue, and publish a short newspaper legal notice before the meeting.

This bill, sponsored by Reps. Van De Wege, Kessler, Rodne, Appleton, Ahern, Curtis, Kenney, Clibborn, Morrell, P. Sullivan, Eickmeyer, Armstrong, Buri, Chandler, Ericksen, Hinkle, Condotta, Anderson, Eddy, Goodman, Kelley, Haler, McCune, Kretz, Kagi, Ericks, Warnick, Pedersen, Bailey, Newhouse, McDonald, Priest, Roach, Strow, Green, Campbell, Hunter, Takko, Sells, Springer, McCoy, Upthegrove, Williams, Moeller, Ormsby, Pearson, Haigh, Linville, Conway, Dickerson, Dunn, Hasegawa, Rolfes, Ross, and Lantz,  passed the Legislature and was signed by the Governor.

Government Accountability: Recodification

In 2005, the Legislature moved the numerous public records portions of the Public Disclosure Act into a new chapter devoted exclusively to public records (and named it the Public Records Act).  In doing so, a few provisions were missed.

Attorney General McKenna requested recodification legislation (HB 1445) to clean up codification errors.

This bill, sponsored byReps. Kessler, Rodne, Chandler, Hunt, Upthegrove andMiloscia, passed the Legislature andwas signed by the Governor.

Government Accountability: Statute of limitations

In 2005, the Attorney General requested both an increase in the daily penalty for violating the Public Records Act and a decrease in the statute of limitation for a claim from five years to one year.  The Legislature passed a bill shortening the statute of limitation to one year after an agency claims an exemption or provides records, but did not adopt the Attorney General’s proposed penalty increase.

The 2005 statute of limitations bill did not address the situation where an agency simply refuses to respond to a requestor.  This creates uncertainty and, without clarifying legislation, resolving it would require expensive litigation to determine which statute of limitation applies to such claims. 

Attorney General McKenna requested legislation (HB 1446) to clarify that the one-year statute of limitation applies from the date an agency is required to respond to a request or any other violation of the PRA. (Bi-partisan sponsors: Reps. Kessler, Rodne, Chandler, Hunt, Upthegrove and Miloscia)

This bill passed the House of Representatives unanimously, was approved by the Senate Government Operations Committee then died for 2007 in the Senate Rules Committee.



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